Jazzing in Seville Square


Tova Thomas, Staff Writer

Every spring, the Pensacola JazzFest is held  in downtown Seville Square. For two days, the community, along with visitors, can enjoy all forms of jazz from many different performers. This year was even better because the JazzFest, one of the largest free events of its kind on the Gulf Coast, celebrated 40 years. This event was held on April 1 and 2, and featured over two dozen local and national jazz bands.

The newly elected JazzFest president, Derrick Fishback, a jazz photographer and active supporter of Jazz Pensacola, said he “intends to keep the youth at the forefront of Jazz’s Pensacola long term mission.” He went on to elaborate on how jazz is “not dead, but it does need some energy.”

One of JazzFest’s long-time staples, singer Ellen Vinson, tells a story with every note and sometimes scrunches her shoulders and tilts her head back to belt out a chorus, with a mixture of a little dance step during the musical breaks. She has a granddaughter who will join her stage and sing one of Frank Sinatra’s classics, “I Won’t Dance.” She [Vinson’s granddaughter] hops across the stage and sings with the same flair as her grandmother.

Between each set, the attendees, while sitting in their outdoor chairs, chatted among themselves while holding glasses of white wine. Regular performers were flagged over to the tables of their guests, and the celebrities greeted guests.

JazzFest averages about 20,000 attendees, who come through to experience the festival every year. JazzFest also invites various brands and performers with a great style that lets them create a diverse sound that also appeals to all the age groups and fans of all genres. For example, in 2021, 4 Korners, an Atlanta-based band, visited and featured high-energy performers who played jazz fusion. 

The festival began each day with fresh new talent from local high schools and colleges. Regional and local jazz took the stage at noon, and special bands performed in the early evening. 

The festival also featured food trucks and a host of vendors for wine, beer and great merchandise to purchase. Each year, JazzFest continues to grow, with fresh faces and new jazz artists from across the world.